Jammie Holmes is a self-taught painter from Thibodaux, Louisiana, whose work tells the story of contemporary life for many black families in the Deep South. Through portraiture and tableaux, Holmes depicts stories of the celebrations and struggles of everyday life, with particular attention paid to a profound sense of place. Growing up 20 minutes from the Mississippi River, Holmes was surrounded by the social and economic consequences of America’s dark past, situated within a deep pocket of the Sun Belt, where reminders of slavery exist alongside labor union conflicts that have fluctuated in intensity since the Thibodaux Massacre of 1887. His work is a counterpoint to the romantic mythology of Louisiana as a hub of charming hospitality, an idea that has perpetuated in order to hide the deep scars of poverty and racism that have structured life in the state for centuries.
Despite the circumstances of its setting, Holmes’ work is characterized by the moments he captures where family, ritual and tradition are celebrated. His presentation of simple moments of togetherness and joy within the black population that nurtures the culture of Louisiana has made him an advocate for this community. Holmes’ paintings fall somewhere between realistic depiction and raw abstraction, incorporating text, symbols and objects rendered in an uncut style that mirrors a short transition from memory to canvas. He often references photographs from home, but also draws heavily on his own recollection of moments and scenes and works quickly to translate his emotions to paint.